University of Cincinnati junior quarterback Dan McCoin completed 16 of 23 passes, two of them for touchdowns, but gave the defense most of the credit for the Bearcats' 31-14 upset of Virginia Tech tonight.
"Our defense was on the field a lot, but they did the job," said McCoin, who finished his first game as Cincinnati's starting quarterback with 164 yards.
The Bearcats' defense, made up mostly of youngsters who watched last year's 2-9 team turn in the worst defensive showing in Division I-A football, pressured Virginia Tech all night. Cincinnati recovered three of Tech's four fumbles and twice intercepted quarterback Todd Greenwood.
"I think we confused them a little," said nose guard Nick Frankos. "They were checking (calling new plays at the line of scrimmage) on and off all night."
Dave Curry, in his second season as the Bearcats' coach, remarked that the work of his youthful defenders "was an amazing performance by any defense; 31-14 is a great defensive victory, in my opinion."
The Hokies, minus most of the top defenders from last season's 8-3 team, couldn't handle the Bearcats' receivers or the running of little (5-foot-7, 170-pound) tailback Reggie Taylor.
"Reggie Taylor is an excellent back and we had a very hard time trying to contain him," said Virginia Tech Coach Bill Dooley. Taylor rushed 28 times for 121 yards and a touchdown.
But more than anything, it was the Hokies' inability to control the ball and sustain their drives that hurt them. Although each team lost three fumbles, the Bearcats turned two recoveries into touchdowns and also capitalized on the interceptions.
After halting Virginia Tech's game-opening drive after 15 yards, the Bearcats blocked a punt and needed just five plays to go 20 yards, with McCoin keeping the ball for a one-yard touchdown.
Virginia Tech tailback Earnie Jones dropped the ball midway through the first quarter and Cincinnati recovered. This time, the Hokies kept the Bearcats out of the end zone as they settled for a 40-yard field goal by Robert Barone.
Virginia Tech turned Taylor's second-quarter fumble on his 22 into a three-yard touchdown run by Greenwood five plays later, which was the final score of the half.
VPI's defense came alive at the start of the third quarter, stopping a drive and forcing Cincinnati to punt.
Greenwood then led an 80-yard drive in 15 plays that took seven minutes and culminated in a one-yard scoring dive by running back Eddie Hunter, who led Tech's rushers with 67 yards on 20 carries.
"I thought we had a good chance to win the game when we drove 80 yards for a touchdown," Dooley said. "But we just didn't contain Cincinnati after that."
Starting on its 20, Cincinnati marched back down the field on its next possession, with McCoin passing for 62 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown throw to Greg Lathan with 1:55 left in the quarter.
Tech gave Cincinnati the ball one more time in the fourth quarter and the Bearcats again made the most of the opportunity, covering 26 yards in five plays. Taylor went around right end for a one-yard touchdown.